(Left photo: Antler Luggage USA; right photo: Briggs & Riley)
The forever suitcase: defined as the one bag that will last a lifetime, be your constant companion on trips of all kinds, and meet your particular travel needs, all without disintegrating into a pile of cheap materials before you even make it home. This is no carry-on bag, folks. This is a suitcase that has it all and fits it all.
I scoured the racks and tested out many makes and models. Height, weight, maneuverability, and durability were the most important criteria, but I also examined features like zippers, handles, and compartments. My final list of medium-sized beauties boasts super-smooth wheels and ergonomically designed handles alongside new features like built-in overweight indicators and global bag-tracking systems. Read on to find out which suitcase should find a forever home in your closet.
Note: Prices quoted are manufacturers' list prices. Most suitcases are on sale for lower prices online.
The built-in overweight indicator in Delsey's Helium Ultimate 25" Expandable Spinner Suiter Trolley is a godsend for the traveler who tends to pack everything but the kitchen sink. While the scale won't exactly help break your habit, it will at least prevent you from throwing in that one last item (or seventh pair of shoes) that would otherwise have taken your bag from pleasantly plump to totally overweight. The 25" Helium Ultimate comes pre-programmed to indicate when it's overstuffed and weighing in at more than 50 lb.
In addition to this much-appreciated cost-saving measure, Delsey has thoughtfully included a number of useful interior and exterior pockets so you can keep organized all the extras you just had to pack. The ergonomics of the bag could use a bit of work, as the handle was a bit difficult for me to pop up and the spinner wheels were a bit tippy.
Whoever thought the grown-up version of a backpack would be this much fun? With myriad pockets, bright-orange interior detailing, and a super-lightweight design, Briggs & Riley's BRX Explore 25" Upright is the perfect bag for adventurous types. It has extra handles in convenient places, an external buckle system that allows you to connect it to another bag in the BRX line, and details like moisture-wicking mesh lining. This rugged suitcase wouldn't look out of place on the hiking trail—but all zipped up, it would fit right in at a fancy hotel, too.
And this bag has pockets galore. Add Briggs & Riley's lifetime warranty, and this innovative bag adds up to a great deal.
The year was 1987, and Northwest Airlines pilot Bob Plath was fed up with the two luggage options currently on the market: a heavy suitcase carried by a top handle or a horizontal model with four wheels pulled by a strap. So he designed a small suitcase, standing it upright, attaching just two wheels, and creating a long, extendable handle for the top. And thus was born the Travelpro Rollaboard.
You know you can trust a luggage company that was founded by a pilot. Travelpro's Platinum 7 26" Expandable Rollaboard Suiter has a timeless look, with ballistic-nylon fabric, nickel accents, and herringbone trim. Like the exterior of the bag, the interior is classic and offers no superfluous components: simply a compartmentalized lid (including a detachable garment bag) and a hidden mesh bottom pocket.
Tumi's eye-catching Vapor Medium Trip Packing Case is bold, beautiful, and filled with surprises. The Vapor line is focused on innovation, from the smartly designed interiors to the molded bumpers that protect the outside from damage. Patented zipper technology even ensures that, if caught on something, the zipper's pull—and not the entire zipper—will break away, so you'll be left with a still-functioning zipper and only have to replace the pull. Plus, the triple-layered polycarbonate shell looks and feels like it could withstand even the most careless airline baggage handler. And in the unlucky event that your bag goes missing, the Tumi Tracer hotline will work to find it for you.
If there is a fault in this suitcase, it's the warranty that comes with it. Lasting for only five years—four of which feature coverage in only a limited capacity—Tumi's protection is less than ideal.
Victorinox has been creating and delivering its signature, the Original Swiss Army Knife, since 1891, and chic travel gear and accessories since 1999. The NXT 5.0 luggage line offers top-of-the-line quality coupled with the best warranty out there, and a digital tracking system to boot.
The Mobilizer NXT 5.0 27" Expandable Upright is a beauty to look at, and its construction and design are both simple and elegant. Victorinox has thought of everything—from the TSA-compatible lock and "self-healing" zippers to the Swiss Tracker Bag-Tracking Program, included with all bags in the NXT 5.0 line. (Each bag features a unique ID number that the 24-hour customer-service support will use to reunite you and your luggage, all at no cost.) The durable ballistic-nylon exterior is built to last and, according to a test by CBS News Travel Editor Peter Greenberg (see video at bottom), can even withstand a beating by a 10,000 lb. elephant.
Made from extremely durable polycarbonate material, this bag is designed to stand the test of time and to resist dings and dents. The super-compartmentalized interior more than makes up for the fact that the bag has no outside pocket—dare I say, there are almost too many compartments inside this suitcase.
The Silhouette Sphere's hook is its spinner wheels, or wheels that rotate in all directions. This feature is obviously meant to make the suitcase more maneuverable, but I actually had a bit of trouble getting the wheels to change direction.
Despite this slight drawback, the Silhouette Sphere is a high-quality bag, and it has my favorite handle: gel-infused, so it practically melts into your hand. You'll thank me later for this built-in massage.
List Price: $600
Antler Liquis Medium Upright Perfect For: The Lightweight
(Photo: Antler Luggage USA)
Liquis Medium 4-Wheeled Super Lightweight Upright is loud—with bright color options; a sculpted, wavy design inspired by a waterfall; and a hard exterior that ensures your bag will be noticed—but its lightweight design and smooth wheels are sleek and quiet.
While some hardsided pieces I tested out had problematic zippers, the Liquis Upright's shower-resistant zippers run smoothly. Made with polycarbonate (considered by many experts to be the lightest, most durable, and highest-quality material for hardsided luggage), this bag is designed for strength as well as practicality. At a mere 6.6 lb., it's as light as a feather, and the built-in grips on the base of the suitcase prove that it was engineered for easy lifting.
List Price: $700
Road Warrior M Series Upright Perfect For: The Apartment Dweller
(Photo: Road Warrior)
Most apartment dwellers simply don't have the space to store a medium-sized suitcase, but Road Warrior has made a 27" bag that can be stashed in even the tiniest studio. The
M Series 27" Upright collapses down to almost half the size when not in use—I measured the bag, collapsed, at 6" deep, compared to its normal depth of 13"—proving the company's claim that their luggage "only requires half the storage space compared to a standard upright."
Along with this selling point, the M Series' comfort-grip handle delivered on its promise and was one of the best I tested out. This is a bag for anyone who packs big but lives small.